Ranking the playing careers of current MLB managers
In honor of Phillies' manager and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and his trip back to Wrigley, let's look at managers when they were players.
On Friday afternoon, the Philadelphia Phillies and Cubs will begin a three-game series in Chicago. Normally, this wouldn't be especially notable, as neither team is contending this season. However, the occasion marks the return of new Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg to Wrigley Field, where he crafted a Hall of Fame career.
This not-at-all-unfamiliar concept -- notable major-league player becomes major-league manager -- got us to thinking about the playing careers of the 30 current MLB skippers. So we're going to rank them from one to 25 (five current managers never made it to the bigs in their playing days) and assign them to general categories of quality. Alongside each name, we'll list the manager's career WAR as a player.
So without further throat-clearing ...
|Hall of Fame|
1. Ryne Sandberg, Phillies (career WAR: 67.6)
An easy call at the top of the heap. Sandberg has to his credit nine Gold Gloves at a premium position, 10 All-Star appearances, one MVP award and 282 home runs. Oh, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
|Hall of Very Good|
2. Robin Ventura,
Chicago White Sox
(career WAR: 55.8)
Ventura just missed out on 2,000 hits and 300 home runs. A patient hitter and a standout fielder at the hot corner, Ventura cobbled together a solidly underrated career.
3. Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers (career WAR: 42.2)
Donnie Baseball's 1984-87 peak was Hall worthy, but his decline phase was just too quick and steep. Still, a slash line of .307/.358/.471 to go with 442 doubles and nine Gold Gloves makes for an excellent career.
4. Dusty Baker,
(career WAR: 36.9)
Baker was a two-time All-Star who played parts of 19 major-league seasons. Over that span, he authored an OPS+ of 116, compiled almost 2,000 hits and manned all three outfield positions.
5. Kirk Gibson,
(career WAR: 38.2)
Good pop, plenty of speed on the bases, 123 OPS+ for his career and a .282/.380/.577 career line in the postseason all recommend Gibson. The injuries got in the way of what could've been a Hall of Fame career.
|Not Half Bad|
6. Mike Scioscia,
Los Angeles Angels
(career WAR: 25.9)
A Dodger lifer as a player and the 19th-overall pick of the 1976 draft, Scioscia went on to log more than 11,000 innings behind the plate and put up some respectable offensive numbers by the standards of his position (career OBP of .344).
7. Davey Johnson,
(career WAR: 27.6)
A four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner at second base, Johnson also boasts one of the most unlikely power seasons ever (43 homers in 1973, and his next-best total was 18). Johnson was a core member of the great Baltimore Orioles teams from the mid-1960s to early 1970s.
8. Walt Weiss,
(career WAR: 16.5)
Weiss had a plus glove at shortstop, stole a base on occasion and averaged 71 walks per 162 games.
9. Bud Black (career WAR: 21.1)
Our first of two former pitchers presently managing in the bigs! Black went 121-116 with a 3.84 ERA (104 ERA+) for his career. He topped 2,000 innings across parts of 15 seasons.
10. Mike Matheny,
St. Louis Cardinals
(career WAR: -0.4)
Poor hitter (career OPS+ of 65) but exceptional defensive catcher. Matheny won four Gold Gloves and guided staffs of three different Cardinals playoff teams. As is the case with a lot of skilled defensive catchers, WAR undersells his true value.
11. Joe Girardi,
New York Yankees
(career WAR: 5.8)
Consummate catch-and-throw backup catcher who became a mid-career regular. Girardi couldn't hit, but his defensive and pitcher-handling skills were always widely praised.
|Ribbon of Participation|
12. John Farrell,
Boston Red Sox
(career WAR: 7.3)
Our second of two former pitchers presently managing in the bigs! In 698 2/3 innings, Farrell notched an ERA of 4.56. His best year came in '89, when he worked 208 innings for the Tribe and posted an ERA+ of 109.
13. Mike Redmond,
(career WAR: 6.4)
Reliable backup for more than a decade. Solid career OBP of .342.
14. Clint Hurdle,
(Career WAR: 2.8)
Solid rate stats (.259/.341/.403) but just 1,596 career plate appearances. Career postseason OBP of .421 in 14 games. Once made the cover of SI!
15. Bruce Bochy,
San Francisco Giants
(career WAR: 2.4)
Career backup catcher with some occasional pop. Played in just 358 games.
16. Ron Roenicke,
(career WAR: 3.0)
A fourth-outfielder type who put up a 92 OPS+ in 1,294 plate appearances.
17. Dale Sveum, Cubs (career WAR: -2.3)
Played the majority of his career defensive innings at shortstop and for the Brewers had 25 homers in 1987 at age 23. Sub-.300 OBP for his career.
18. Bob Melvin,
(career WAR: 2.5)
Backup catcher, survived 10 seasons in the bigs, hit not unlike a backup catcher.
19. Ron Washington,
(career WAR: 1.2)
Utility infielder who flashed some speed but did little at the plate.
20. Ron Gardenhire,
(career WAR: 0.8)
Across parts of five big-league seasons, Gardy batted .232/.277/.296 and saw time at short, second and third.
21. Terry Francona,
(career WAR: -2.9)
Serviceable reserve who saw significant time at first base and the outfield corners. Batted .346 with the Expos in 1984 but subpar numbers for his career.
22. Eric Wedge,
(career WAR: 0.2)
Catcher who logged exactly 100 plate appearances in his major-league career.
23. Ned Yost,
Kansas City Royals
(career WAR: -3.7)
Catcher who never played more than 80 games in a season and batted .212/.237/.329 for his career.
24. John Gibbons, Blue Jays (career WAR: 0.2)
Logged 57 plate appearances and a 90 OPS+ as a catcher across slices of two seasons.
25. Bo Porter,
(career WAR: -0.6)
Porter's major-league career lasted just 89 games spread across three seasons. Over that span, he managed an OPS+ of just 59.
|Crash Davises (i.e., those who stalled in minors)|
Terry Collins, New York Mets ; Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves ; Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers ; Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays ; Buck Showalter, Orioles